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New Photographic Series by Taryn Simon at Gagosian
Taryn Simon, “Bird corpse, labeled as home décor, Indonesia to Miami, Florida (prohibited)”, 2010. © Taryn Simon. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery.
NEW YORK, NY.- Gagosian Gallery presents “Contraband,” a new photographic series by Taryn Simon.

Simon’s photographs chronicle contradictory aspects of American identity while exposing the veiled mechanisms of society. Contraband expands on the earlier series An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar (2007), which explored the covert intersection between private and public domains. For five days in November 2009, Simon lived at John F Kennedy International Airport, which processes more international passengers than any other airport in the United States. The exhaustive pace at which she photographed paralleled the twenty-four hour rhythm by which goods move across borders and time zones. Contraband includes 1075 photographs of over 1000 items detained or seized from passengers and from express mail entering the U.S. from abroad. Simon used a labor-intensive, forensic photographic procedure to document a broad array of forbidden items, including the active ingredient found in Botox, counterfeit clothes and designer accessories, pharmaceuticals, jewelry, overproof Jamaican rum, drugs, items made from endangered species, Cuban cigars, animal parts, pirated DVDs, khat, gold dust, GBL (date rape drug), cow-manure tooth powder, and steroids.

Cataloguing such an enormous amount of material in a limited period of time, emerging patterns reveal a comprehensive cross-section of international commerce, exposing the desires and demands that drive the international economy as well as the local economies that produce them. Simon photographed each item against a neutral grey background, producing an ‘objective’ scientific record, devoid of context. Removed from the individual passenger’s belongings, each item loses its distinguishing personal associations and is transformed into an artifact of the larger global network. For Simon, “contraband” can also infer danger, raising questions about what is officially considered to be a threat to authority and security in contemporary society.

Contraband will also open at Lever House, New York on September 30 and run until December 31, 2010.

Taryn Simon was born in New York in 1975. She is a graduate of Brown University and a Guggenheim Fellow. Simon's photographs have been the subject of international solo exhibitions including “The Innocents,” Kunst-Werke Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin (2003), traveled to institutions including P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, New York (2003) and High Museum of Art, Atlanta (2006); and “An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar,” the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2007), traveled to institutions including The Photographer's Gallery, London (2007), the Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt (2007-2008), and the Foam Photography Museum, Amsterdam (2008). Permanent collections include: The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Tate Modern, London; Centre Pompidou, Paris; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego; High Museum of Art, Atlanta; and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. She is the 2010 recipient of the Rencontres d’Arles Discovery Award.

Gagosian Gallery | Taryn Simon | "Contraband" |


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